Social Media Switzerland: What makes organizations tick on the Social Web

Since 2012 and for the fifth time, Bernet Relations and the Institute for Applied Media Science of the ZHAW have been investigating the importance of social media in Switzerland. For this purpose, companies were surveyed about their social media behavior. The results show: YouTube is the frontrunner, LinkedIn is booming, and Facebook is losing.


Nine out of ten Swiss organisations and companies are active on social media. Social networks are thus becoming increasingly established as a central communication tool. Two thirds of the respondents have a social media strategy for the entire organisation. In doing so, they pursue goals such as image enhancement, trust building, visibility and reach.

YouTube remains at the top in terms of use, newly ahead of Twitter and the booming LinkedIn. Facebook failed to make it onto the podium for the first time with 4th place (2018: 2, 2016: 1). The trend towards image-based, fast dialogue and content via streaming or chats did not hold despite generally more engagement triggered by the Corona pandemic: more than half of the organisations increased dialogue and contact maintenance with social media.


"The new study shows the great and growing importance of social media in organisational communication. More emphasis is being placed on strategic foundations and integration into communication, and more resources are being used for this," explains scientific study director Guido Keel.

Irène Messerli, author of Bernet Relations, adds: "More than two thirds of organisations and companies work with corporate influencers. The use has increased, administrations and political organisations mainly rely on internal influencers, companies on internal and external ones. LinkedIn plays an important role here: this is where internal influencers express themselves about their organisation or the offers and services."


The trend toward higher social media budgets continues to grow. 85 percent of all responding organizations have a budget or plan to budget soon. Already, the majority of companies and organizations pay for reach. A third pay for ad placements at least weekly. Facebook Ads are even more widespread than Google Ads, which are just ahead of Instagram Ads.


Important internal influencers - little investment in further training

As before, personnel resources flow primarily into the creation and management of content, followed by conception and strategic development. Surprisingly, even in 2020, little is being invested in internal training and development. At the same time, internal and external influencers are becoming increasingly important: 67 percent have implemented corresponding measures or are planning to do so.


Awareness of listening is high - concern about security, outrage, escalation

Swiss organisations and companies are increasingly working with paid monitoring tools. Among other things, popularity and reach, visitor numbers, engagement and dialogue are measured. The respondents still see the greatest challenges in data security and the risk of shitstorms.

Fewer and fewer respondents expect the trend towards offline communication. For the future, they see that the importance of social media for personnel marketing, image and reputation will increase. And that social media strategies will increasingly be developed across all departments and areas.


The most important findings at a glance

Commitment rises slightly - no newcomers

At 92 percent, the proportion of organizations engaged in social media is slightly higher than in 2018 (89 percent). There has been a significant increase in those already highly experienced users who have been using the channels for more than six years (54 percent). Not a single organisation reported being active for less than a year. The few who were not active stated that social media did not fit in with their organisational culture or that the interest of the target group was too low (two mentions each). Also mentioned were loss of control, legal uncertainties and the great effort involved.


Strategy remains constant

Already in the 2018 study, there was a significant catch-up in strategic planning, and this development is now continuing in 2020. 88% have a social media strategy, 57% of which for the entire organization (2018: 51%), 31% have a strategy for individual areas, departments or projects. Across companies, social media is mainly integrated into marketing processes (79%) and brand communication (68%), significant social media activities are also in HR (46%). They are less significant in the areas of customer service, internal collaboration or sales.


Trust, image, visibility

The most important goal in the use of social media is to create trust, maintain the image and reputation (75%). Almost equally important is to increase the visibility (73%) of one's own company or organization, followed by reach and web traffic, and to provide information about products and services. Companies and other organisations only differ in one respect: companies are much more likely to use social media to appear as an innovative employer (53%) and to recruit new employees (26%) than public authorities, associations and NPOs (20% and 9% respectively). It is striking that administrations (74%) primarily strive for direct contact with citizens via social media. For companies, no goal achieves such a high value - the motives for being active on social media are more varied.


Strongest growth: LinkedIn and blogs

YouTube has been leading since 2016 and remains the most important platform for many organizations and companies. The trend towards image-based and immediately tangible and fast-paced content via live streaming and chat networks, which was visible in 2018, could not be maintained. LinkedIn and Twitter have gained in importance. For the first time, 16% of responding organizations and businesses reported using TikTok. Respondents also want to learn more about the TikTok, Instagram and LinkedIn platforms.


Paid presence: Ads placement remains constant

Before 2018, people were experimenting with ads - today, a majority of companies and organizations already pay for their reach. Compared to 2018, the intensity has remained the same - around a third said they pay for ad placements at least weekly. Facebook remains the most popular platform to run ads. Facebook Ads are even more widespread than Google Ads, which are only very slightly ahead of Instagram Ads. Also widespread are ads on LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter. Ads are rarely run on the other platforms. However, purchasing reach on social media is much more common among businesses than among government agencies, associations and NPOs: while 47% of businesses reported running social media ads at least weekly, the figure for other organizations is just 5%. By contrast, more than a third of these organizations said they never buy ads on social media.


Engagement: strategy, content and contact management

As in 2018, the respondents rated the creation and management of content as the most important activity related to social media use, followed by conception and strategic development as well as dialogue maintenance. Slightly less attention is paid to monitoring and success control. According to the survey, the least investment is made in technology and design as well as in internal training and further education.


Resources: Own budget and external support increase

By 2016, organizations often expected social media activities to occur within existing budgets. Today, 78% of all responding organizations and companies have specific budgets, up from 30% in 2013, including outsourcing resources to external partners, including primarily social media and PR/communications agencies. Content editing is the most outsourced, ahead of ad placements and technology. This was already the case in 2018, and it's surprising. One might assume that people would prefer to be responsible for content in-house if their primary goal is reputation management.


Internal and external opinion leaders become more important

Two-thirds of the organisations surveyed (2018: 50%) work with influencers (personalities who express themselves as internal employees or external opinion-makers on an organisation or its offerings and services). Administrations and political organisations tend to rely more on internal employees as influencers, companies on internal and external ones - and overall the use of influencers is higher among companies than among administrative units and political organisations.


Monitoring more professional, measuring the image significant

Organizations and companies track social media systematically and increasingly work with paid monitoring tools. Awareness of the importance of listening remains high: only 7% still state that they do not conduct systematic monitoring. Popularity and reach, visitor numbers, engagement and dialogue, comments and other user activities are measured.


Challenges and future

Respondents still see the biggest challenge in data security, followed by concerns about shitstorms, collective outrage and escalating situations. Fewer and fewer respondents expect the likelihood of offline becoming more of a trend again. Looking ahead, responding organizations and companies estimate that it will become more important for HR marketing, image and reputation. And that social media strategies will increasingly be developed across all departments and areas.


Social media engagement in the age of Corona

The year 2020 was marked by massive cuts due to the global spread of Covid-19. The pandemic had an impact on the engagement and intensity of dialogue on social media for half of the respondents: just under half of the respondents said that they increased social media activity, on the other hand only just 4% were less active during the pandemic. However, half of the respondents stated that Corona had not changed anything.

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